A Complete Savior
Q & A 30: Do those also believe in the only Savior Jesus, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?
No, although they make their boast of Him, yet in deeds they deny the only Savior Jesus, for either Jesus is not a complete Savior, or they who by true faith receive this Savior, must have in Him all that is necessary to their salvation. Heidelberg Catechism
Do people actually make their boast of Jesus and yet deny Him? You probably wonder how that is possible, but it is! How do people boast of Jesus? They speak well of Him. They believe that He was a wonderful prophet, an excellent teacher, a great example and many even claim Him as their Savior, but not completely.
Jesus confronted such people during His time on earth:
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’Matthew 7:21-23
One such person was a Pharisee named Nicodemus: “There was a man of the Pharisees name Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him’” (John 3:1,2). Nicodemus thought that he and his sect (notice he uses “we”) were doing Jesus a great honor and recognition by addressing Him as “Rabbi.” They were including Him in their prestigious company. But Jesus denounces this pride and boasting in no uncertain terms:
But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries [small boxes containing brief passages of the Law attached to left arm & forehead] broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places in the synagogues, greetings in the market places, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’, for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father, for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers, for One is your Teacher, Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.Matthew 23:5-12
This kind of talk and boasting continues today. The cults talk freely about Jesus. I remember well a family vacation trip many years ago. One stop was in Salt Lake City, UT. The attraction was the Mormon Tabernacle, where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed. The guided tour also included the Mormon Headquarters and Museum. There, to my chagrin, was a picture gallery of all the Mormon prophets and leaders. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were right in line with Christ and the twelve apostles, all with no distinction. The portraits were all of the same size!
Roman Catholics live under a religious system where the exclusiveness of salvation through Christ alone is obscured. Yes, salvation is through Christ (there’s the boast), but there is no period after Christ. It is always Christ and . . . Christ and penance, Christ and Mary, Christ and the church, Christ and the priest.
Q & A 80: What difference is there between the Lord’s Supper and the Popish Mass?
The Lord’s Supper testifies to us, that we have full forgiveness of all our sins by the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself once accomplished on the cross; and that by the Holy Ghost we are ingrafted into Christ, who, with His true body, is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father, and is there to be worshipped. But the Mass teaches, that the living and dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is still daily offered for them by the priests, and that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and is therefore to be worshipped in them. And thus the Mass at bottom is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and passion of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.Heidelberg Catechism
Thus, for the true Roman Catholic, salvation is through Christ plus good works. By no means, is this limited to Roman Catholics. Protestantism and the so-called evangelical church, which is dominated by Arminian theology (i.e., that man has a free will and the human ability to choose for or against Christ), is also guilty of seeking salvation of themselves. For sometime already there has been a movement afoot called “Catholics and Evangelicals Together,” which sees faith as man’s own good work that makes him righteous and acceptable to God.
The Scriptures speak otherwise: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13).
The Heidelberg Catechism explains it well:
Q & A 62: But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?
Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment-seat of God, must be perfect throughout and wholly conformable to the divine law; but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.
Q & A 61: Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?
Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God, and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.
So, in their belief and in their deeds, many deny the only Savior Jesus, and He is not a complete Savior. Like Israel of old, “they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).
Is Jesus a complete Savior, or must something be added? Do we have in Jesus all that is necessary for our salvation? To answer these questions, we must turn not to the church, not to the pope, not to the traditions of men, not to man, but to the only and absolute source of authority for faith and life, the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God: “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31). What does it mean that Christ is a complete Savior? It means that Christ is the wisdom and power of God for our salvation. The Gospel, i.e., the good news of how people would be redeemed from their sin and misery, was and is the wisdom and power of God. “The justice and truth of God required that satisfaction for sin could be made in no other way than by the death of the Son of God” (Heidelberg Catechism 40). So God sent His only begotten Son to die the cruel death of the cross. This plan of salvation, this wisdom of God, was planned long before you and I were born, even before the creation of the world: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as son of Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him” (Ephesians 1:3-10).
God chose to save a number of people “before the foundation of the world.” He did so, not because He foresaw that some would be deserving, for “there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Romans 3:11); but according to His own good pleasure, He elected a certain number “in Him” [Christ], “so then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16). This number, He, the Father, gave to His Son. They are the sheep who are given ears to hear their Shepherd’s voice: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:27-30). Because of this election by the Father, Jesus could say: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:37-40).
For this elect number, full atonement would be made. The apostle Paul sums it up most succinctly in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ bore in body and soul the full penalty and punishment that your and my sins deserved, including “the anguish and torment of hell” (cf. H.C. #44). God, the Father poured out His wrath against your and my sins upon Christ. Christ endured all of this for His own, those given Him by the Father, those known by Him before the world began. This was Christ’s passive obedience: becoming “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8); becoming as “a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, opening not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
But that was not all. “With His innocence and perfect holiness [Christ] covers, in the sight of God, my sin, wherein I was conceived” (Heidelberg Catechism #36). Christ was perfectly holy, righteous and obedient for us and that is now credited to our account. This is known as His active obedience. I know of no better way to sum it up than the way the Heidelberg Catechism does:
Q & A 60: How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.
All of these benefits of Christ we receive by faith. That’s how we can be justified or made righteous before God. This is the gospel and what it means to live by faith. Listen to the apostle Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16, 17). How one can be righteous before God is revealed in the glorious gospel of God’s grace. The means by which God bestows or imputes this righteousness to us is through the gift of faith. Remember, it is “not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith” (it’s not my faith, but the gift of God), “but only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ that is my righteousness before God, and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.” And so the just (those to whom the righteous-ness of Christ is imputed) have new life now and forever.
Those who are redeemed from their sin and misery by grace through Christ, are then also renewed by the Holy Spirit after the image of Christ. They are sanctified definitively, i.e., once and for all time, so that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). They are sanctified progressively, i.e., more and more conformed to the image of Christ (cf. Romans 8:29), as they “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), “until they reach the goal of perfection after this life” (H.C. #115). And old and familiar hymn says it well: “Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Thou art the Potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still. Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Hold o’er my being absolute sway! Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always, living in me!”
Yes, Christ is the complete Savior! We have in Him all that is necessary for our salvation! “For of Him [by the Father’s election] you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption—that , as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31). AMEN and AMEN!